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Memories of the 28th Century

Restoring Civility

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During most of my life so far I lived in rather safe areas, places where the general populace was well-behaved, and there was a local police force that was adequate. Unfortunately, the place where I presently live is becoming progressively less safe. Eight years ago, I moved back to Amherst; unfortunately, Amherst has gone from being a pleasant and friendly place to a place where people are in fear of violent crime, and with good reason, a significant part of the townís population has become unreliable, unstable, or something along those lines. This area has long been known for having drug traffickers and other actors in non-violent crime, and I have been acquainted with some of those. Alas, more recently, there have been people who re drunks or mentally ill who may act strangely at any moment.

Until a few years ago, I had not been a victim of any crime, but I have been physically attacked several times in the last few years, twice this year alone, and one of the assailants is certainly mentally ill, but I donít know anything about the other.

The fundamental cause for such events is that the mental hospitals were closed decades ago, and the mentally ill have no place to go and many receive no treatment. When the state mental hospitals were closed here, starting in the early 1970ís, the politicians claimed that there were community facilities for all of the people, and no one would end up on the streets. Within two weeks that was shown to be a lie, and the state has decreased spending for the mentally ill, so more of them are on the streets. The mental hospitals could be replaced, and the lessons learned in the past should result in better treatment for the patients.

A decade before the state hospitals were closed, the town farms and poor houses were closed, and that was where people who couldnít find work, women on their own and other people in need could find a place to sleep and eat. They were required to work, and drunks were banned, but back then the only people without homes were drunks who couldnít hold down a job, and most of the drunks did have jobs. For hundreds of years there was no problem with homeless people, because everyone was taken care of, one way or another, and there were jobs of almost anyone who wanted to have one, because manufacturing hadn't been sent to other countries.
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Correcting the situation will take years, and there are several major steps that need to be taken, and the first step is to reform Federal tax laws, so that it won't be cheaper to sent manufacturing to China and other low wage countries. That will also require careful review of the regulations on manufacturing, because some of the regulations eliminate jobs without making the work safer. There are many regulations that need review, and there are some industries that are so inherently dangerous that no amount of regulation would make the workers safe, but if the workers are aware of that and accept the risk, then that might be adequate. Recreating the jobs will provide a backstop, but it will also be necessary to provide local and regional services.

We can start by providing local town farms for the housing and feeding of those who can't find work. Those can be paid for from the payments to contractors and landlords who have been taking advantage of some marginal people. These local facilities would have to deal with some of the mentally retarded who are capable of living on their own.

Simultaneously, the system of contractors who are supposed to be caring for and treating the mentally ill should be converted back to the mental hospitals of a few decades ago, but with some of the people being sent to subsidized apartments. There are problems with large institutions of that sort, but it will be easier to see the problems than it would be with many, small group homes.

And maybe after we become accustomed to having the mentally ill in hospitals instead of trying to hold down normal jobs we will notice some of the people who presently go on to commit mass murders and other unacceptable behavior.

This is just one step toward recreating a civil society, but doing something about the kind of people who engage in random acts of violence is very important. Other steps include getting people to drive safely. After we get things straightened out in this country, we might be in a position to go to other parts of the world and clean things up, but until then we should save money for projects that might possibly get done.

Updated 04-06-2019 at 07:23 PM by PeterL

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  1. Ecurb's Avatar
    Oh for that halcyon American past, when we locked the mentally ill in "hospitals" so that they wouldn't bother honest, hard-working citizens like Peter. Those were the days when (although unemployment rates were higher than they are now) all Americans had good jobs, and those evil Chinese simply starved to death or died in floods, as is proper.

    Of course Peter's ideas run contrary to what the current American administration puts forth

    It's too bad that Peter has suffered from "several" violent attacks in recent years. That hardly contradicts the statistical evidence that crime rates have dropped dramatically in the past several decades. Peter goes on to say, "And maybe after we become accustomed to having the mentally ill in hospitals instead of trying to hold down normal jobs we will notice some of the people who presently go on to commit mass murders and other unacceptable behavior." Or "maybe" not. It seems to me that locking the mentally ill in hospitals might make it LESS likely that we "notice" them, which is precisely what Peter wants. In any event, we already lock up several millions of our citizens. Locking up more of them because they MIGHT commit crimes in the future seems unethical and cowardly.
    Updated 04-15-2019 at 07:26 AM by PeterL (clarity)
  2. PeterL's Avatar
    I suppose that someone who gets his news from Fox might have those opinions, but If you had been paying attention during the Eisenhower administration, then you might have noticed that there were no "shopping bag ladies" wandering around; they were housed in lunatic asylums, if they weren't at the local town farm. While neither sirtuation was ideal, the residents of such places were comfortably housed and well fed, and they were not abused, as might happen on the streets now. When MIchel Foucault came out with his book about the abuses of the mentally ill, he had no relevant experience; he was simply expressing his ideological position. "Madness and Civilization" had as much basis in the real world as did his "The Order of Things"; that is none at all. Foucault should have called his books fiction, but no there a greater factual basis in much fiction.

    Apparently, you are unacquainted with how crimes are reported. Not all crimes make it into the statistics. Only crimes that the police feel like pursuing are recorded as such. And there is a similar matter with workforce participation. A few decades ago anyone who was looking for work was counted as part of the workforce, but these days some classes of people who are looking for work are excluded, and that includes anyone over 65, except those who are currently employed=, and there are other groups.

    Think what you like.
  3. Ecurb's Avatar
    I'll grant that I wasn't paying much attention to crime statistics during the Eisenhower administration. Nonetheless, I don't seem to fear "shopping bag ladies" as much as you do. Maybe if I were attacked as regularly as you have been, I would feel differently, but I doubt it.

    I will continue to "think what I like", and what I like to believe is those things that are supported by evidence. As I suspected, you want to return to the 1950s, an era during which (if you lived in certain states) you would not have been forced to suffer the indignity of using public toilets used by "negroes" (as they were then called). Nor would you have gone to public schools with them, lived in neighborhoods with them, or allowed them to vote.

    Do you really think that all those Southern black folks who were poorly educated in segregated schools were well housed? Do you really think crime in black neighborhoods back then was more accurately chronicled than it is today? Do you really think Southern blacks had highly-paid jobs that have since been shipped off to China? Come on now, Peter.

    A quick google search confirms that black unemployment (as well as overall unemployment) is at an all-time low (although comparable statistics have been kept only since 1972). Maybe homelessness, poverty and unemployment among Southern black people interests you as little as homelessness, poverty and unemployment among the Chinese. I'll bet unemployed southern blacks in the 1950s weren't wandering the streets of Amherst, offending your delicate sensibilities. Perhaps it has occurred to you that there are several reasons those horrid "shopping bag ladies" might be less evident, one of which is that the police might roust and arrest them for the terrible crime of being homeless and offending the sensibilities of reputable citizens like you, Peter. The reason the homeless are more visible today than in the past is that they are given more freedom by the police, not that there are more of them.

    p.s. I wonder how many of those comfortably housed and fed in mental institutions or town farms were black?
  4. PeterL's Avatar
    "p.s. I wonder how many of those comfortably housed and fed in mental institutions or town farms were black?"

    The figures probably are available online for what that
    s worth.